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Retired nurse finds fulfillment in Medical Reserve Corps

Registered nurse Harriet Alvarado, 67, has been a member of the Medical Reserve Corps of Southern Nevada (MRC) since 2005.

"I enjoy people, and I enjoy helping," the Summerlin resident said.

The MRC is a community-based civilian volunteer program that helps build the public health infrastructure of communities nationwide. The Southern Nevada unit currently has 197 volunteers on its roster according to program coordinator Paula Martel.

"We are one of the original 42 units (founded) 10 years ago who applied for grant funding to develop a cadre of pre-identified health care professionals and others who are willing to support local public health initiatives and respond to local emergencies," said Martel.

Alvarado and her husband, Joe, moved to Las Vegas in 2001 from Washington state. She realized that after 23 years of nursing, retirement wasn’t fulfilling. She found a volunteer position at Nellis Air Force Base in the dermatology department. For two years, she "volunteered" 40 hours a week.

"I was learning from him (the dermatologist) and helping to educate his staff (on proper nursing protocol and procedures)," said Alvarado. When the doctor was transferred, she looked for other volunteering opportunities and found the MRC.

The variety of volunteer opportunities appealed to Alvarado. The MRC provides blood pressure, body mass index, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and foot screenings at local health fairs and provides first-aid support for local community events.

Educating the people she meets at these events and mentoring student nurses is the best part of volunteering for the MRC, according to Alvarado. "I get a sense of accomplishment – that we are educating people like we should – to prevent things like high blood pressure," she said.

Two online FEMA courses are required before becoming an active MRC volunteer, Martel said. Funded by federal grants and general funds from the Southern Nevada Health District, the health district offers initial and renewal American Heart Association CPR and basic first aid training at no cost to MRC volunteers.

Upcoming events that volunteers can choose from include first-aid support at the Variety Day home-demolition project, Veteran’s Village, Willow Glen Mobile Home Park playground building, Family, Fur & Fun Festival, all on Oct. 28, and the American Junior Golf Event at Stallion Mountain, Dec. 7-9. Attendance at one event per year is required of each MRC volunteer to maintain an active status.

Alvarado likes the ability to choose the events that work with her family schedule. "I can be as involved as I want to be," she said.

"It’s all enjoyable and memorable because you are meeting so many people," said Alvarado. "People you are helping, people that are working with you, meeting people who have the same interests. It’s giving somebody an opportunity to use their expertise to help people and their community."

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